Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jewels in the Stained Glass Crown

Perhaps the most striking feature of any ecclesiastical building, from parish church to cathedral, are the stained glass windows, and St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze has examples dating back more than six centuries. 

The glorious 17th century East window is the work of Abraham van Linge and was commissioned by Sir John St John in 1630. Abraham and his brother Bernard came to England from Emden, Friesland in around 1623. Examples of Abraham's work can be seen in the V&A, Lincoln College, Oxford, Queen's College, Oxford and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Or closer to home, in the Blue Closet or Diana Room at Lydiard House.

At the opposite end of the church the vibrant West window, erected in 1859 to the memory of local farmer John King by his two sisters Ann and Mary, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as 'Large figures, strident colours, bad.'

But the jewel in the stained glass crown at St Mary's has to be the fragments of 15th century glass found in practically every window. Executed by long forgotten itinerant Flemish glass workers, these stories in coloured glass reveal yet more history. 

When the glass workers arrived at a commission they cast their eye around the local villagers for models to sit for their work, choosing those with strong and particularly beautiful features. What a thought that as we gaze up at these works of art the residents of medieval Lydiard Tregoze are looking down on us.

"In the tracery lights of the south aisle windows are depicted four prophets, possibly Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, or they may be the four Doctors of the Church - Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great, who were not often depicted in ecclesiastical vestments. One holds an open book and two hold scrolls; in each case they have hands raised in warning or have fingers pointing upwards or forwards in teaching;" Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report 38 published 14 May 2008

Centre window includes the Virgin crowned and holding a sceptre, and the Christ child. Possibly modeled by a beautiful young mother from medieval Lydiard Tregoze with her own child.

In the north aisle angels holding scrolls with the opening words of the Gloria - Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will

Angel playing a mandolin

This window to the East of the church has been the subject of several interpretations. One figure holds a shield with a rose en soleil, one of the badges of Edward IV, and they were at one time believed to represent three Seraphim. However it is now thought more likely that these are characters from Daniel Chapter 1-3 and represent Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were consigned to a fiery furnace. The angel with outstretched hands is the angel of God who delivered them from their ordeal.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Restored Wall Painting in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze

Earlier this year the wall painting above the chancel arch in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze, was revealed and restored for the third time in more than one hundred and seventy years.

In August 1837 a certain Henry Gibbs painted a picture he described as "A Drawing From An Ancient Painting Found in Fine Liddiard Church, Wilts."

Sometime after Mr Gibbs executed this drawing the painting was covered in lime wash and hidden from view until it was rediscovered during restoration work undertaken in 1901.

So who are the people represented in the wall painting. Two theories exist, one that the figures represent those redeemed by Christ's sacrifice such as bishops, merchants, lawyers etc. The second, apparently more convincing interpretation is that those gathered beneath the cross are Christ's tormentors, the high priests and Pharisees, possibly even Pilate himself. The message being that we should not crucify Christ again by either word or deed.

The costumes date the painting to the early 16th century, sometime between 1520-1540. The symbols of the sun and moon are regular features on medieval representations of the crucifixion but seldom appear after the 15th century, adding yet another puzzle to this painting.

Conservationist Ruth McNeilage spent most of May working on the wall painting and admits that the eight figures around a central cross are something of a mystery.

With the first phase in the ambitious £1 million project complete, the church is now wind and watertight. A second phase of conservation and restoration work now begins, focusing on the 18th century boxed pews and other historic monuments, including the medieval wall paintings.

2011 photograph published courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball

Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No. 18 published May 11, 1985.